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Do Recruiting Rankings Matter? Evaluating the Merit of "Stars" and Recruiting Platforms

By: Connor D'Aquila ⏐ Writer ⏐ Twitter: @ConnorDaquilaIT


Via Darron Cummings/AP


Every year, the debate over recruiting and star rankings surrounds all commits. As this becomes an area of contention once again, I have looked back in the depths of 247Sports and have tried to find the extent to which “stars” really matter. Of course, we trust the Notre Dame coaching staff and the decisions they are making, but it is worth examining how much merit we should give to platforms like 247. To accomplish this, I looked through the level of play for top-ranked all-time Notre Dame commits, the ranking for top players of the era, and the ranking for recent draftees out of ND. All of this has been done using the 247Sports Composite® rankings.


Beginning with the all-time top commits, we see a few familiar names. Jimmy Clausen, Jaylon Smith, and Manti Te’o make up the top 3, and ND fans will know what they have done with the program. Rounding out the top 5 are Sam Young and Aaron Lynch. Young had an immediate impact on the line, starting every game in his four years with the team. That amounted to 50 starts, which set a record for career and consecutive starts at Notre Dame. He was then drafted and had a 10-year NFL career. Lynch, on the other hand, had an extremely good freshman year, but transferred to South Florida after only one season due to culture concerns and fit with the school. Next is Michael Floyd, who lit up Notre Dame Stadium with records for catches, yards, and touchdowns. He went on to have a seven-year NFL career and is an Irish legend. After Floyd is where the rankings start to show some flaws. Players like Ishaq Williams, Dayne Crist, Gunner Kiel, James Aldridge, and Max Redfield round out a group of five-stars who were never able to find traction in South Bend. Aside from Victor Abiamiri and Michael Mayer, none of the other top-ranked prospects became true stars at the collegiate or professional level. Kyle Rudolph and Stephon Tuitt are the only notable high-level four-stars that round out the top 25 commits of all time.






Moving on to the rankings of the best to play for Notre Dame in the rankings era (2000s), the story gets far more interesting. The full list of players considered here can be seen at the bottom of the article, but it ranges from guys like Justin Tuck to Michael Mayer. While the list is not exhaustive and is somewhat subjective, it should cover most of the recent top players. All were Notre Dame standouts who have seen success in the NFL (Jeff Samardzija excluded). Of them, the average ranking was 146, and the vast majority were four-stars. The only three-stars were Samardzija, Tyler Eifert, and JOK, the latter two guys carrying rankings of 563 and 450, respectively. Samardzija was early in the rankings evolution, when a 196 overall rank was considered a three-star grade. Justin Tuck, class of 2001, was also completely unranked, but came out of school at the dawn of rankings platforms, and only 50 players were considered in a given class. If we translate those numbers to today, the average of that group would be someone like Braylon James or Brauntae Johnson. Of course, though, we hope to see many more head in the Eifert and JOK direction.


If we look only at recent history, when more recruiting sites have popped up, and look only at the last five classes of drafted players out of Notre Dame, the story changes a bit. Of the 26 drafted players, the average ranking out of high school was 264, and once again, the vast majority were four stars. This time, however, there were six three-stars, who defied the composite rankings. This group was made up of JOK, Tommy Tremble, Ian Book, Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Ben Skowronek, and Julian Love. There was also Alohi Gilman, who was completely unranked coming out of high school, when he committed to Navy. The lone five-star in the group was Michael Mayer. That 264 number would translate to a guy like Micah Gilbert or Devan Houston in more recent classes. That number also adds a bit of legitimacy to the rankings, considering there are 259 picks in every draft.





Of course, the rankings are not the end all, be all for recruiting success. Just in these lists, there are plenty of players who arrived at Notre Dame a three-star with little notoriety and grew into standouts. Whether it comes from different development timelines or a flaw in the system, we should not rely solely on recruiting rankings when evaluating recruits. We should acknowledge, however, that generally, the rankings are a good gauge of talent. Of all the standout players considered, 83% had four or more stars coming out of high school, and our top-three all-time commits are all in the conversation for best of the entire era. All this being said, it is apparent that rankings cannot be ignored, but should not be the only measure we consider.


Full list of “the best”: Golden Tate, Brady Quinn, Justin Tuck, Michael Floyd, Jeff Samardzija, Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Stephon Tuitt, Harrison Smith, Quenton Nelson, Kyle Hamilton, CJ Procise, Will Fuller, Mike McGlinchey, Jerry Tillery, Chase Claypool, Cole Kmet, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Aaron Banks, Liam Eichenberg, Michael Mayer, Isaiah Foskey, Manti Te'o, Jaylon Smith, Jimmy Clausen


Full list of last five drafts: Jarrett Patterson, Michael Mayer, Isaiah Foskey, Kyle Hamilton, Kyren Williams, Liam Eichenberg, Aaron Banks, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Tommy Tremble, Robert Hainsey, Ian Book, Daelin Hayes, Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Ben Skowronek, Cole Kmet, Chase Claypool, Julian Okwara, Troy Pride Jr, Khalid Kareem, Alohi Gilman, Jerry Tillery, Miles Boykin, Julian Love, Drue Tranquill, Dexter Williams, Alize Mack





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